THURROCK’S director of public health was grilled on the borough’s poor air quality after the topic failed to feature as a priority in a new health strategy.
Jo Broadbent gave an update on the borough’s 2022-2026 health and wellbeing strategy, outlining a range of health and lifestyle issues the council will focus on following a recent public consultation.
The strategy covers everything from housing and employment, obesity, smoking and mental health issues but makes little mention of what is being done to improve the borough’s appalling air quality.
Thurrock has one of the highest rates of death from lung cancer in the UK.
In December 2019 the British Heart Foundation said Government data ranked Thurrock one of the worst polluted areas in the country. The borough was named the seventh worst town in the country for pollution, with residents breathing in the air that is the equivalent of smoking 138 cigarettes a year.
Speaking at Tuesday’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, Jane Pothecary, Labour councillor for Riverside, Grays, said: “For me there are such pressing issues around air quality in the borough and the link to peoples health, and I know it is kind of in there but only to regeneration and future development.
“There doesn’t seem to be a link saying well actually we need to be taking that approach to improve air quality across Thurrock, not just where there might be regeneration going on or redevelopment. I’m wondering how do we pull that in and make sure that is put front and centre?”
Ms Broadbent replied: “You are right it’s not referenced in detail. We are doing some work in the background to underpin developing a new air quality strategy. We haven’t had an air quality monitoring officer for quite some time but I believe someone has now been recruited so there is a lot of work to do to develop and refresh our air quality strategy.
“To some extent we didn’t really want to pre-empt what was going on in a strategy that hadn’t been developed yet so the fact that it is not massively emphasised in this document doesn’t mean it is not a priority for us and the council.”